Fri. Apr 19th, 2024

If you’re brand new to the keto diet, you’re probably wondering what foods you can (and can’t) have. Fortunately, having a go-to keto foods list can make grocery shopping way easier—and help take the stress out of trying a brand new meal plan.

As a reminder, the keto diet is a high-fat, low-carb lifestyle designed to help your body jumpstart ketosis, in which your body burns fat for energy instead of carbohydrates. Typically, people following the keto plan must opt for nutritious sources of unsaturated fat and protein, like avocado and fish, says Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, a dietitian at The Nutrition Twins.

Keto is known as being one of the more restrictive meal plans out there, but if you’re worried about saying goodbye to beloved baked goods and snacks, don’t worry—there are still many delicious alternatives you can enjoy (including dining at keto-friendly restaurants). Ahead, dietitians share what to add to your keto food list. Just save, print, shop, and bon appétit.

Meet the experts: Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, is a dietitian and personal trainer at Nutrition Twins. Marisa Moore, RDN, is a food and nutrition expert based in Atlanta, Georgia. Pegah Jalali, RD, is a nutritionist at Pediatric Dietitian LLC. Sydney Greene, RDN, is a dietitian and nutritionist at Greene Health. Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, is a dietitian at Nutrition Twins. Nora Minno, RD, is a dietitian and certified personal trainer based in New York City. Lara Clevenger, RD, is the founder of The Keto Queens.

How does keto work?

Although there is no universal “standard” ratio for the keto diet, it typically means eating no more than 50 grams of carbs a day and getting most of your calories from fat and protein, per Harvard School of Public Health.

After about two to seven days of following the keto diet, you go into ketosis, or the state your body enters when it doesn’t have enough carbs for your cells to use for energy. That’s when you start making ketones, or organic compounds that your bod then uses in place of those missing carbs. Then, your body starts burning fat for more energy, which can lead to weight loss.

keto grocery list

Jewelyn Butron

Keto Food List For Beginners

1. Low-Carb Veggies

Low-carb options like cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, bell pepper, celery, cucumber, eggplant, and asparagus are great in place of higher-carb veggies, says Pegah Jalali, RD, a nutritionist at Pediatric Dietitian.

You can also opt for frozen veggies, like cauliflower, says Sydney Greene, RD, a dietitian at Greene Health. “It’s very low-carb yet high in fiber and vitamin C. Use cauliflower in place of bananas for a creamy smoothie without the extra carbohydrates,” she says.

2. Avocados

Avocado is another keto-friendly food since it’s jam-packed with nutrients and healthy fats, says Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, a dietitian at Nutrition Twins. You can add hemp or flax seeds sprinkled on top and some parmesan cheese for added nutrients, Jalali says.

3. Berries

Raspberries are a perfect sweet treat for people on the keto diet since they’re the fruit with the fewest carbs, says Jalali. Blackberries and raspberries are also solid options because they contain eight grams of fiber per cup, says dietitian Marisa Moore, RDN.

4. Salad Greens

Pre-washed greens, like spinach, kale, and arugula, are keto-friendly and time-saving during meal prep. “Having greens on hand makes it super easy to throw together a quick salad or add some quick nutrients—folate, vitamin C, fiber, magnesium—to your proteins,” says Greene. For a quick, keto-friendly breakfast, scramble two whole eggs and a handful of spinach to get a good serving of healthy fat, protein, and fiber, she adds.

5. Grass-Fed Beef And Organic Chicken

Keep grass-fed beef and lamb, along with organic chicken, on hand, says Jalali. Clients particularly love Applegate Farms products, says Shames—they’re non-GMO and made with grass-fed beef, sans nitrates and preservatives.

6. Bone Broth

Bone broth has been trending recently due to its health-boosting benefits and is fair game on the keto diet. Greene loves Bonafide Provisions Bone Broth, which uses bones from grass-fed cows. “The amino acids found in the broth support a healthy gut,” says Greene.

7. Tuna, Salmon, Or Sardines (Fresh Or Canned)

If you’re on keto, you can grill, bake, or pan-fry fresh fish in a healthy oil (olive or avocado) and serve with a low-carb veggie like broccoli or cauliflower rice. If you choose canned, mix it with mayo and serve over greens, suggests Jalali. For a simple keto lunch, combine a can of tuna with half an avocado in a collard green wrap, says Greene.

8. Cheese

Go for grass-fed, organic, and full-fat options in the dairy aisle, Jalali says. One readily available option (at groceries and convenience stores alike) is Organic Valley full-fat cheese. “It fits in the keto diet perfectly,” says Lakatos.

Always read the nutrition info before purchasing pre-shredded cheeses, cautions Jalali, who says they sometimes contain a stabilizer that adds carbs—so just make sure your shredded cheese has zero grams of carbs.

9. Greek Yogurt And Sour Cream

These can be used interchangeably on the keto diet, as they both have similar amounts of carbs—Greek yogurt has five grams per serving and sour cream has seven. Just make sure they’re plain options since added flavors can come with extra carbs.

10. Quark

Quark is a German food that’s somewhere between yogurt and cheese in flavor and consistency—you can add it to smoothies, or use it as a spread or topping. “It’s rich, creamy, and a favorite among our clients who are keto followers,” says Lakatos.

11. Eggs

If you’re on a keto diet, opt for Eggland’s Best Eggs. “They have double the omega-3s and six times the vitamin D of other eggs, thanks to their all-vegetarian hen feed, which provides high-quality, keto-friendly nutrients,” says Lakatos.

Moore suggests meal prepping hard-boiled eggs and keeping them in the fridge throughout the week for easy on-the-go breakfasts. If properly refrigerated and not cracked, they’ll last for seven days in the fridge.

12. Nut Milk

Milk can actually have a good amount of carbs, so nut milk is a good alternative on the keto diet, says Lakatos. Unsweetened coconut, hemp, and almond milks in particular are good options, as they contain no carbs and more than four grams of fat—a perfect combo for keto dieters.

Almond milk specifically is versatile for a variety of recipes, like a chia seed pudding or breakfast smoothie, says Moore. “Simply blend frozen berries with leafy greens and plenty of almond milk for a frosty drink in less than five minutes.”

13. Avocado, Olive, Hazelnut, And Coconut Oil

The keto diet is all about fat, so clearly all healthy oils are welcome on this keto grocery list. Cooking food in the oils is one thing—but you can also amp up your fat intake by drizzling some on your cooked meal as well.

14. Grass-Fed Ghee

Ghee, like the oils above, is a pure fat, which means it’s free from carbs or protein, says Jalali. “Ketogenic diets are more than 60 percent fat, so having pure fats for all meals helps keep you on track,” she says. If you can’t find ghee, you can also use butter.

15. Seaweed

This low-carb snack has just one gram of carbs and is full of iodine, which supports a healthy thyroid, says Greene. Some even come in individual grab-and-go packets, so you can store them in your desk at work or in your purse.

16. Olives

Add olives to your salad or have them as an on-the-go snack. “We find these to be a life-saver for our keto clients,” says Shames. Olives offer a healthy monounsaturated source of fat; some even come in different flavors like taco or sriracha.

17. Pistachios

Single-serving packages of pistachios can be another great keto option, says Shames. “Ninety percent of the fats found in pistachios are the better-for-you mono- and polyunsaturated type,” says Shames. “Plus, pistachios provide a good source of plant protein and fiber for a trio that can help keep you fuller longer.”

18. Almonds

Another nut that’s high in fiber, healthy fat, and protein is almonds. They are great for clients who are constantly busy and need snacks to keep them satiated throughout the day, says Moore. You can easily pack single-serve packages for a boost.

19. Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast provides B12, a nutrient that many people—especially those following vegan and vegetarian diets—just don’t get enough of. It’s also a source of protein without many carbs at all, says Lakatos. “Keto followers can sprinkle it on their meals for a cheesy flavor, and they often use it to make keto-friendly breads and tortillas,” she says.

20. Chia Seeds And Flax Seeds

You can use these seeds to coat meats, include them in baked goods, or make keto-friendly oatmeal and pudding, says Jalali. These pantry items are high in fiber but low in carbs.

21. Healthy Frozen Foods

Added items like frozen cauliflower pizza and frozen frittatas can make eating keto simple on mornings and nights when you’re strapped for time. Nora Minno, RD, recommends cauliflower pizza, which contains only 16 grams of carbs for the whole pie.

22. Tofu

“Tofu is a great way to add plant-based protein into a diet that is typically heavy in animal protein and fat,” says Minno. “A 3 oz serving contains 80 calories, four grams of fat, nine grams of protein and only three grams of carbs. You’ll also be getting important micronutrients like calcium, iron, and potassium.”

23. Low-Carb Pasta Alternatives

Following the keto diet doesn’t mean you have to give up pasta altogether. A smart swap? Low-carb products. “Shirataki noodles are a great low-carb pasta alternative with only two grams of carbs and zero calories per bag,” says Minno.

24. Nut Butters

A high-quality nut butter is a great keto snack, topping for flax crackers, and ingredient for keto fat bombs and desserts, says Lara Clevenger, RD, founder of The Keto Queens.

25. Grass-Fed Beef Tallow

Beef tallow is rich in omega-3s and is a “high-quality saturated fat which has a high smoke point and is great for cooking,” says Clevenger.

26. Chocolate

Yes, you can totally add keto-friendly chocolate to your shopping cart. Clevenger recommends ChocZero. “It’s sugar-free chocolate, non-GMO, and contains no sugar alcohols or soy lecithin. It’s not super bitter like some chocolate bars, and tastes great and has a very good texture,” she adds.

27. Keto-Approved Condiments

One of the trickiest things to shop for while keto? Dressings and condiments. Low-sugar ketchup and barbecue sauce from Alterna Sweets are a good option, Clevenger says. “These sauces taste amazing and they all contain only one gram net carb per tablespoon,” she adds. As for salad dressing? Primal Kitchen brand makes sugar-free and keto-certified products, says Clevenger.

28. Alternative Flours

“Almond flour is one of my favorite baking ingredients,” Moore says. It’s also one of the most common keto-friendly, gluten-free, alternative flours. “Almonds provide satiating fiber and protein plus healthy fats,” Moore adds. She recommends it for making pie crusts and baking cookies and muffins.

Coconut flour is another low-carb flour alternative that Moore suggests adding to your pantry. However, keep in mind that you can’t just substitute the same amount in a recipe that calls for regular four. “Because it is highly absorbent, you’ll likely need to add more liquid to baked goods that use coconut flour,” Moore notes.

29. Keto-Friendly Sweeteners

For a natural sugar substitute that’s keto-compliant, consider stocking up on monk fruit, says Moore. Whether you’re baking or looking to sweeten up your coffee, monk fruit is an option that won’t take you out of ketosis. Erythritol is another common keto-friendly sugar substitute.

30. Keto Protein Bars And Granola

To keep you full during the day, try a keto protein bar that’s high in healthy fats (like nuts and oils like avocado oil) but low in carbs. Low-carb or grain-free, low-sugar granolas and keto cereals like Lakanto Healthy Quick Breakfast Granola or Lark Ellen Farm Granola are also good options. You can add milk or eat them with yogurt for a tasty breakfast.

Food To Avoid (Or Limit) On Keto Diet

  • Pasta and other grains. Foods like pasta, rice, and noodles are often (unfortunately) the first to go. However, you can opt for low-carb pasta and noodles instead.
  • Starchy veggies. Starchy, high-carb vegetables like carrots, corn, green peas, beets, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash aren’t the most keto-friendly, unfortunately. Experts recommend swapping them with colorful, leafy greens instead.
  • High-sugar fruits. While fruit is usually recommended for a healthy, balanced diet, the keto diet restricts some fruit, says Moore. Fruits like apples, bananas, pears, grapes, and cherries can be high in carbs—which break down into sugars—so they’re not typically part of a keto eating plan.
  • Legumes. If you eat vegan or vegetarian, you may get protein from beans, lentils, and chickpeas. On keto, though, options like black beans, red beans, lentils, chickpeas are too high in carbs and too low in fat to be compliant.
  • Sugary foods. As hard as it can be, keto doesn’t usually allow desserts like candy, doughnuts, and cookies. However, keto-friendly snacks can satisfy your sweet tooth in the meantime.
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Ashley Martens is a wellness writer based in Chicago. With a lifelong passion for all things health and wellness, Ashley enjoys writing about topics to help people live happier and healthier lives. With a foundation in fitness, food, and nutrition, Ashley covers it all including sexual health and travel topics. Ashley is also a NASM-certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor.

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